With continually rising food costs, more and more people are looking for ways to save money on food bills. Many communities now allow small flocks of chickens to be raised for personal use. Fresh eggs are much tastier and of better quality than eggs purchased from commercial egg-laying farms.
Chickens will naturally eat nearly anything. They are omnivorous, so they will eat insects, mice, weeds, grains, grass and table scraps. Commercial chicken feed, which is nutritionally balanced, is readily available. Some commercial feeds contain additives and questionable ingredients like chicken feathers, however.
Chickens love table scraps. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about what table scraps should be avoided. Generally, if something is not good for you to eat, that means it probably isn’t good for the chickens, either. Spoiled or moldy foods should be discarded or added to the compost heap.
There are as many ideas about what table scraps are bad for chickens as there are people raising chickens. For people with delicate palates, it is a good idea to avoid feeding your chickens strongly flavored foods. Onions, garlic and peppers are rumored to flavor the eggs and meat.
Fruit, vegetable peelings and cooked veggies are fine to feed chickens. Some people believe all potato peels are bad for chickens, but there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for this belief. It is best to avoid feeding your chickens green potato peels, because they contain a toxic chemical called solanine which can harm them. People should avoid green potato peels as well.
Chickens generally will let you know what vegetables and fruits they prefer. If they don’t eat it, you’ll know they don’t like it. Hard vegetables like carrots may need to be cooked before feeding them to chickens. Some birds are able to handle raw hard foods, and others aren’t. It is somewhat of a trial and error process.
Most chickens enjoy meat scraps, which isn’t surprising when you consider they like eating bugs. Cooking fat such as bacon grease can also be given to chickens, but care should be taken that it is eaten before it turns rancid. This also applies to meat scraps. Leftover meat bits are a tasty appetizer for rodents and other pests you don’t want visiting the chicken coop.
Dried beans contain a substance, hemaglutin, which is not good for chickens. Cooked beans are fine, though.
Chickens can be given cooked eggs. Raw eggs won’t hurt them, but you don’t want your chickens to develop a taste for raw eggs. They won’t mind breaking and eating each other’s eggs, so it’s best not to give them the idea that raw eggs taste good. Washed and dried egg shells are an excellent dietary supplement, since laying hens need extra calcium. The shells do need to be washed to remove any raw egg residue that could spoil.
Occasional table scraps that contain sugar are fine, but sugary foods should be restricted. Too many sugary snacks will make chickens fat, just like they do humans. Breads and other starchy scraps should also be somewhat restricted.
Unless you have a huge amount of table scraps, you’ll need to either let the chickens forage, or supplement scraps with grains or feed. Chickens who are allowed to forage in a chicken run or pasture will find plenty of things to eat in the wild.
Feeding table scraps to your chickens is an economical and ecological source of food for them. The scraps stay out of the landfill and are recycled into good fresh eggs and meat for you.